Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill: Commons second reading

14 November 2018

On Wednesday 14 November, MPs debated the second reading of the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill. This bill aims to legislate for post-Brexit alternatives to Britain's current reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the European Union. Its second reading passed without division and the Bill will now proceed to committee stage.

Second Reading

Stephen Barclay, The Minister for Health and Social Care, moved that the Bill receive a second reading, saying,

"It is clearly in the interests of the British public to ensure reciprocal healthcare arrangements continue when we leave the EU".

Justin Madders, Shadow Secretary for Health and Social Care, responded for the Opposition. He expressed some concerns about specific clauses, but said these would be raised at the committee stage, and broadly welcomed the Bill's introduction.

"The Opposition welcome any efforts to safeguard healthcare for the estimated 190,000 UK expats living in the EU and the 50 million or so nationals who travel abroad to EEA countries each year."

The timing of the Bill was also criticized by several MPs, but ultimately it passed on the nod. The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill will now continue to committee stage.

The Commons Public Bill Committee is now calling for evidence on the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill. If you have expertise or special interest that you think may be relevant, you can submit evidence ahead of the first Committee meeting on November 27 November 2018. For more information follow the link below.


What is the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill?

At present, the UK is part of a complex EU healthcare system that allows UK citizens to access healthcare while living, working, or visiting the EU, and reciprocates this benefit for EU citizens in the UK. The current system includes healthcare for pensioners, students and migrant workers, as well as funding UK residents to receive treatment unavailable in the UK in other EU countries.

After Brexit, regardless of the deal reached, the government will need to renegotiate reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the EU, or with individual states. This Bill aims to enable the government to respond to a wide range of options, by giving the Secretary of State new powers.

Broadly speaking these would allow the Secretary of State;

  • To fund and arrange healthcare outside the UK,
  • To give effect to healthcare agreements between the UK and other countries, territories or international organisations, such as the European Union (EU),
  • To make provision in relation to data processing, which is necessary to underpin these arrangements and agreements.

The UK currently has reciprocal healthcare arrangements with several non-EU nations, including Australia and New Zealand, though these are considerably more limited in scope than the current EU deal. This Bill would also enable renegotiation, or strengthening, of existing reciprocal agreements and the negotiation of new ones, outside the EU.

 Image: iStock

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